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(The following Community Foundation of Greater New Britain opinion piece was published in The Southington Citizen on January 25, 2013. To view the article as it appeared in the newspaper, please click here.)

Full-Day Kindergarten: The Gift of Time

By Jim Williamson

This week, the Southington Board of Education again took on the proposal to implement full-day kindergarten in our public schools. As a parent (though my children are now grown!) and Southington taxpayer for nearly 10 years, I can relate to the concerns this important measure raises.

As a professional whose charge, among others, is to do all I can to help the Southington community be the best it can be, I can tell you that my support – and that of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain – of this proposal is unequivocal. This is not the idle musing of a non-profit executive for whom this proposal represents the latest, trendy “cause,” but the practical, considered opinion of a parent and taxpayer personally invested in our community’s well-being.

No major change in public education involving taxpayer dollars is without controversy. Those concerned about the costs of full-day kindergarten, its purported benefits and its impact on the rest of the school system raise, by and large, legitimate issues.

By from my vantage point, this is about investing in our future. And full-day kindergarten for Southington children is an investment worth making.

Few dispute the overwhelming evidence that high-quality early childhood education pays untold dividends in shaping not only the future of American youth, but the future of America, itself. While formal research documenting the long-term academic effectiveness of full-day kindergarten is admittedly incomplete, there is a host of evidence indicating such programming is a strategically sound investment on multiple levels.

Adding the “gift of time” at this tender age positively impacts everything from literacy to language development, enrichment to peer interaction, social/emotional development to physical education – and so much more.

It does not take much of a leap of faith to connect the dots and envision a Southington 20 years from now populated by young adults whose learning deficiencies were identified and corrected at an early age; whose development of emotional and social skills got a boost in kindergarten; and whose achievement in academics – and life – got the chance to be all they could be thanks to a kindergarten teacher who had more time to make a difference.

Since 2005, the Community Foundation has invested nearly $1 million through its First Years First initiative to help prepare the children of Southington, Plainville, Berlin and New Britain for success in school and in life by enhancing their early childhood development experience. Our partnership with Southington Public Schools to create the Early Childhood Collaborative of Southington and its highly successful Family Resource Center are byproducts of our investment. Full-day kindergarten in each of our communities remains a goal, and we are tantalizingly close to realizing such wonderful programming in Southington.

Take a look around. Plainville is implementing full-day kindergarten. Berlin is likely to. More than 70 school districts throughout Connecticut are already on board. The ship is leaving the dock and those aboard in communities across America are doing the prudent thing to invest in their futures and their quality of life.

And isn’t “quality of life” for ourselves, our families and most importantly, our children, why we live in Southington in the first place?

(Jim Williamson, who was scheduled to address the Southington Board of Education this week, is president of the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain, which serves Southington, Plainville, Berlin and New Britain.)


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